Volunteer Stories: ‘They became family to us’

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For the last 15 days, Efren and Alice Eramis worked every day for Operation Blessing as a volunteer offering advice and help at the Maria Cristina Gym, Balo-i, Lanao Del Norte. They would come from Iligan City proper from 11 am, pass through multiple checkpoints, and arrive at 1pm – to help Operation Blessing in its disaster relief efforts.

Weeks after the Marawi siege erupted, this is now their family’s life. Every morning, they will do all the house chores and send their two children to school; they will then prepare for a 3-hour travel to Balo-i for the feeding of internally-displaced families. Due to Martial Law, they need to leave at 5pm before the lockdown in Iligan City.

Efren talking to an evacuee at the Maria Cristina Gym. Photo by Keen Mae Mansumayan, volunteer, Iligan City

The first week of feeding was held every six in the evening due to Ramadan. The Muslim evacuees would come by families, depending on the time they have finished their fasting. Efren and Alice sit near the relief goods waiting for the people who would need advice and sometimes, prayers. Gender plays a very important role in the Muslim culture so Efren talked to the men, while Alice sat with the women.

“The first time we sat with them, some will usually cry because of the trauma they had experienced. Some do not talk, they would just sit,” Efren shared.

Alice (left) sits with an evacuee at the Maria Cristina Gym.

“It really broke my heart to listen to the experiences of the mothers, even the young ladies,” Alice said.

“As we talk to them each day for 15 days, little by little, we noticed some improvements with their testimonies,” Efren shared. “As we meet them every day, they became family to us,” he continued.

Efren and Alice said they were happy with their experience with Operation Blessing and that they learned a lot from the activities, which they can also use for their ministry as missionaries to different tribes in Mindanao.

“I was not really fond of the culture of Maranaos but after my encounter with the evacuees, I became interested in learning their language and I think learning different dialects is really important for me and my ministry,” Efren said.

All of our efforts would now be possible if not for the hearts of our volunteers like Efren and Alice. You too can be a blessing to many in need! Inspire Change with us now. Register at www.obphil.com/home/volunteer/

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